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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    sigurd's Avatar

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    Default Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    Another thread was talking about the merits of the Tome of Horrors.

    It occurs to me that there really are at least two approaches to a monster book.


    1) Imagine a world and fill it with monsters - this is the ecology approach.

    Pro - I think you come up with really interesting monsters because you don't have to make everything an extension\reflection of the players needs.

    Con - You may introduce a whole bunch of monsters that seldom see play because they are too weird or occupy to rare a niche in the game world.


    2) What makes a good encounter? - Design monsters as opponents to challenge parties of various levels under various circumstances.

    Pro - It is never a bad idea to consider the players. They're the reason you play. If you make a 'good' collection of monster you have a 'good' monster book.

    Con - Sometimes this approach defeats itself if the monsters are too similar or don't have enough of a setting hook. Even the most combative players will occaisionally see part of the world that doesn't threaten them or that exists just to adorn the game world.



    Now of course this is a generalization but I was wondering if people had a favourite type of monster book? Since polls don't work I'm going to ask people what they think. We have some amazing monster makers here and we've seen a lot of monsters.

    Try and respond with your favourite monster source and even your favourite monster and why.....


    Thanks.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    I think that, no matter how well you design a Monster Manual, there will always be something that rarely or never gets used it a campaign. It's just how it works. I, personally, think that the Rakshasa are a really neat monster, but have never run across one in my 10+ years of gaming.

    Now, I suppose it's possible to force the GM into using all the monsters presented, but the only way I could think of doing so would be to severely limit the monsters to only a few types (thus giving no choice of what to use) or be a campaign module that assumes you're using the printed monsters. Both kind of go against the spirit of a "Book of Monsters for GM Use", though.

    As for Challenge vs. Ecology - why not both?

    In any setting, unless you intent for there to be a wide gulf in monster levels, there would reasonably be progressively stronger monsters. An arctic setting might have bears, snow witches, winter wolves and orc barbarians for low levels; ice giants, white pudding, elementals, and yeti for mid levels; and then white dragons, frost worms, and Remorhaz at high levels. All fit into the theme of the book, yet their challanges still range from the first levels onto the highest.
    Last edited by erikun; 2009-06-19 at 10:36 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    PairO'Dice Lost's Avatar

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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    Quote Originally Posted by sigurd View Post
    Now of course this is a generalization but I was wondering if people had a favourite type of monster book? Since polls don't work I'm going to ask people what they think. We have some amazing monster makers here and we've seen a lot of monsters.

    Try and respond with your favourite monster source and even your favourite monster and why.....
    I definitely favor the ecology approach. Not every monster exists to try to eat or maim you. The encounter approach isn't bad, not by any means, I just think challenges should first and foremost logically fit into the world rather than the other way around.

    My favorite source in 3e is Monster Manual 2. The balance is...dubious at best, but on my own I hadn't thought up, say, evil piles of clothes that mind-control you (raggamoffyns), huge worms that vomit demons (fiendwurm), hardcore Positive Energy parasitic tourists (glimmerskins), or evil trees with humanoid fruit (orcworts).
    Last edited by PairO'Dice Lost; 2009-06-19 at 10:41 PM.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    1) I strongly favor the ecology approach, but I always make sure that there is a monster nearby that can be a decent challenge. Just in case.

    2) This is not Homebrew. Go 'brew something & get back to us, please.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeta Kai View Post
    2) This is not Homebrew. Go 'brew something & get back to us, please.
    He's asking the Homebrew masters, many of whom seldom leave their caves to check the main gaming area. Sheesh, angry much?

    As for your question, I lean towards the ecology. If the monster doesn't fit into the world in a reasonable way, why's it there?

    All that I say applies only to myself. You author your own actions and choices. I cannot and will not be responsible for you, nor are you for me, regardless of situation or circumstance.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    Quote Originally Posted by arguskos View Post
    He's asking the Homebrew masters, many of whom seldom leave their caves to check the main gaming area. Sheesh, angry much?

    As for your question, I lean towards the ecology. If the monster doesn't fit into the world in a reasonable way, why's it there?
    1) We "master homebrewers" are an irritable lot, unaccustomed to the light of other fora.

    2) I think that the OP is referring to the priority of each factor, not the inclusion of each factor. Both factors should be included, but which one is more important?

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeta Kai View Post
    1) We "master homebrewers" are an irritable lot, unaccustomed to the light of other fora.

    2) I think that the OP is referring to the priority of each factor, not the inclusion of each factor. Both factors should be included, but which one is more important?
    So I see, o great and powerful Master of the art.

    As for priority, I still say ecology. It seems to me that designing to make a believable world is the key to making critters. Of course, my own meager critters don't fulfill that purpose, but meh, I'm but a novice yet.

    All that I say applies only to myself. You author your own actions and choices. I cannot and will not be responsible for you, nor are you for me, regardless of situation or circumstance.

  8. - Top - End - #8
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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    I first give a vague spread of monsters across the world, but generally exclude ones outside of the appropriate CR from current encounters because anything too easy or too hard just isn't fun. The party with either feel bored or like they've been cheated, and in either case, the combat mechanic has failed as a tool of excitement. I'll send encounters of all kinds, between Easy and Overpowering (although I generally stick to about 50% being equal CR to the Party Level, as I believe the DMG suggests), but I never let the ecology tie my hands. Besides, I find it trivially easy to explain why PCs encounter Monster A and not Monster B.

    I try not to say "This Monster Lives Here" for every single race because I find explaining too much ruins the mysticism, and it means I can't change things on the fly to provide the best encounter I can imagine for the moment. Sure, I'll have NPCs spread tales of how "Faeries enchant the western forest", but that's just what's most prominent. There can easily be other stuff, too. I think it's much better to be vague and have variety, because then I can just grab whatever I feel is both memorable and manageable.

    To sum up, I feel the only continuity worth worrying about is that which is apparent to the PCs, and I honestly find justification for encountering some monsters and not others to be very easy, and therefore a secondary thought. Deciding upon Ecology, for me, happens first, but is basic and purposely vague so that I provide proper Challenge, which I believe holds more importance.

    Edit:

    Favorite Source: SRD. Because it's free.

    Favorite Monster: Gibbering Mouther. Damn, those guys are creepy.
    Last edited by Deepblue706; 2009-06-19 at 11:38 PM.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    Quote Originally Posted by arguskos View Post
    He's asking the Homebrew masters, many of whom seldom leave their caves to check the main gaming area.
    Theres a main gaming area?

    Anyways I think ecology is more important. In any balanced ecosystem it will likely have less dangerous creatures that are preyed on by more dangerous ones up to a certain level. As such there should be a good range of CR that should be inherent.

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    PirateGirl

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    Default Re: Monsters by Challenge or Ecology?

    Quote Originally Posted by sigurd View Post

    1) Imagine a world and fill it with monsters - this is the ecology approach.

    Pro - I think you come up with really interesting monsters because you don't have to make everything an extension\reflection of the players needs.

    Con - You may introduce a whole bunch of monsters that seldom see play because they are too weird or occupy to rare a niche in the game world.


    2) What makes a good encounter? - Design monsters as opponents to challenge parties of various levels under various circumstances.

    Pro - It is never a bad idea to consider the players. They're the reason you play. If you make a 'good' collection of monster you have a 'good' monster book.

    Con - Sometimes this approach defeats itself if the monsters are too similar or don't have enough of a setting hook. Even the most combative players will occaisionally see part of the world that doesn't threaten them or that exists just to adorn the game world.

    Now of course this is a generalization but I was wondering if people had a favourite type of monster book? Since polls don't work I'm going to ask people what they think. We have some amazing monster makers here and we've seen a lot of monsters.

    Try and respond with your favourite monster source and even your favourite monster and why.....
    1. I really favor the ecology approach. I like to think that I'm pretty inclusive about things, even the really weird stuff. I don't think it matters how much one uses a particular monster.

    2. No matter how good my monster is, a lousy DM can botch it and a good DM can make it shine. I don't write my monsters for my players, I write them for other DMs to use on their players.

    My favorite monster books are the ones that are interesting to read not just to play. First place goes to Revised Tome of Horrors for the sense of nostalgia I get when I read it; and it doesn't hurt that it is one of the better products out there. Penumbra's Fantasy Bestiary comes a close second because I just loved the alchemice

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